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5 Reasons I Bought Strange Adventures in Infinite Space
By Zeus | 2008-11-04

The UnReal World RPG is an independent PC game set in the Finnish Iron age. What separates it from most other roleplaying games is an emphasis on survival. URW simulates the harsh rigors of living off the land in ancient times. Instead of classes like Warrior and Wizard, you play Fishermen, Hunters and my personal favorite, a crazy old Hermit. It's sort of like an antisocial Dwarf Fortress, only this sucker has been around since the early 90s.

#1 - The full game is only $3.

You heard me, three bucks. The whole game. Catch is, the $3 license is no good for any updates. Ever. Not even if you run into some gnarly game-ending bugs. For that price, you have to get a hex editor and fix them yourself. A $10 license grants you roughly a year's worth of updates until the next major revision. Finally, a lifetime license for $55 guarantees die-hard fans years of upcoming content without ever having to spend another dime.

Trade

Me, I spent $3. If they add anything sweet down the line, I might buy a $10 license. But nobody ever accused me of not being a cheapskate.

#2 - Digital Finns!

Holy crap. This game has digitized graphics! That's one of the best things I've seen in years, and I'm not even being sarcastic.

Cabin

Once upon a time, digitized graphics were the edge of the edge. Then came rotoscoping (Out of This World), full motion video (Night Trap), rendered graphics (Donkey Kong Country) and the inevitable rise of polygons (Star Fox). Suddenly, digitization wasn't so cool anymore.

Well folks, I'm here to tell you that "cool" can go suck a toad. Cool in independent games means hanging on to those favorite little scraps of forgotten gaming that still hold appeal to you and a few other dedicated maniacs.

Or in my case, cool is watching a bunch of shaggy, archaically dressed friends of the developer run through the wilderness, reenacting battles like the Finnish branch of the Society of Creative Anachronism.

Skills

That's cool.

#3 It's a Roguelike

Wrestling. Video games. Pornography. Besides irritating your mother, what do these three things have in common? Answer: They all have a certain degree of mainstream acceptance, and a hardcore subculture which is not quite as socially acceptable. For every Stone Cold Steve Austin, there's a beer-swilling Sandman. For every Halo, there's a Starsiege: Tribes. For every Linda Lovelace, there's a, er... Linda Lovelace. Man, you people really did accept everything in the 70s, didn't you?

Sure, kick a badger in the nards. Why not?
Sure, kick a badger in the nards. Why not?

Well, in the world of RPGs, you can't get much more hardcore than a Roguelike. These unforgiving turn-based games (named after Rogue, one of the first in the genre) are only for those so hardcore that their solid diamond hearts pump titanium blood through veins of cubic boron nitride. Here's why:

  1. You know how when hackers in the movies start typing, their screen fills with random jumbled text? Well, that's how most Roguelikes look; they're made entirely of ASCII characters.
  2. Everything is randomized, from potion effects ("will this heal or kill me?") to dungeon layouts. Mapping won't do you any good.
  3. Permadeath. Once you die, that's it. Game over, man.

The UnReal RPG - Crawl The UnReal RPG - Randomized World
LEFT: One of the beginning scenarios drops you in the middle of a town of red-robed Njerpez cannibals. RIGHT: Random Map Generator, three words that infinitely extend the life of any game.

Over the years, I've developed a healthy appreciation for Roguelikes, but it's the sort of appreciation one gives to the grand canyon or an active volcano. Then along came UnReal World, which took Roguelikes out of the dungeon and into Finnish wilderness. The game is still extremely challenging (the longest one of my characters lasted was eleven days) but there are helpful scenarios which teach you commands, provide objectives and show you the ropes. Last of all -- and this was the biggest draw for me -- URW introduced the concept of survival (in the Tom Hanks Cast Away sense).

Bender
Just like in real life, I spent a lot of weekends passed out in a stranger's tool shed.

#4 - You can live off the land.

Whenever I play Oblivion on my buddy's Xbox 360, I roll up a character, head through the opening dungeon, and completely forgo all the cities, dramatic quests and world-ending dangers Bethesda has so lovingly created.

Instead, I wander the forests, exploring for hours. Sometimes I hunt deer. I'm not much for hunting in real life, nor do I play hunting games, which don't offer much variety. But I've always been fascinated with the idea of self-sufficient living in RPGs. Why accept some lame fetch quest to earn cash for healing potions when you could roam the countryside, harvest ingredients and make the potions yourself?

UnReal World RPG - Hunting
Deer hunting, it brings a tear to Ted Nugent's psycho, gin-soaked eyes.

While UnReal World has its share of social interactions, from dialog trees to scenarios where you begin the game as part of a thriving village (one stage of wilderness training is even, "seek out a settlement"), much of the game takes place outside of the usual town/dungeon rut. It's not about setting up macros to darn socks for 100 hours, just so you can sell 'em in some crowded marketplace -- it's about making your own armor, hunting and gathering your own food, making a cudgel from fallen logs, carving ornate details into said cudgel, and then cudgeling anyone in the head if they home in on your cudgel making territory.

UnReal World RPG - Fishing
What part of "will do whatever it takes to survive" don't you understand?

Fantasy games grant you a temporary reprieve from modern society, so why do they make it so hard to avoid medieval society? After taking crap from your boss all day, do you really want to come home and run odd jobs for some jackass with a yellow exclamation mark over his head? UnReal World is different. Any game that lets you play a Fisherman isn't kidding. Fishing isn't something you do to pass time like in Zelda 64, it's what you do to keep from starving to death.

#5 - You can chop down trees and build yourself a log cabin. Then you can set bear traps to stop intruders from entering your home. You can even sneak up to a sleeping bear, put a leash around its neck and make it your pet.

UnReal World RPG - Build a cabin

Why haven't you bought this yet?

It's three dollars.

What's wrong with you?

- Hunter Zeus of the Islanders (zeus [at sign] bucketbros [period] com)

Download the shareware demo or buy the full version at the UnReal World RPG Official Homepage.

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